Tag Archives: ihram

Day 16 – Path to Purity

“Maybe when we remove the dirty ihram, Allah removes with it the impurities in our hearts.”

11/6/11Hajj, Day 3

While we were coming back, I felt like we were on the path back to purity. I got my head shaved on the walk back, I went to a legit barber, who used a fresh new blade and just shaved my hair straight off. Didn’t trim it first or anything, worked out perfectly. It feels so incredibly refreshing, Alhamdulillah. I look so boss with a bald head and the beard :P. I might rock this look more, who knows.

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Finally showered, changed, prayed, ate a little. I can rest now, iA.

Coming back, I saw some men in ihram that had been to the slaughterhouse apparently. Their clothing was covered in blood splatter. The bottom of their ihrams were totally soaked red with blood. It was such a violent image, I actually cringed at the sight – white sheets, soiled with dark, dried blood. Then, I realized, if we follow the rituals as they’re prescribed, there’s no way the ihram would stay clean. You stand in the sun all day in Arafah, so you sweat, and it bakes into your clothing. You spend the night in Muzdalifah, out in the open, on the sand – so you’re exposed to dirt and dust all over. You walk more the next day and travel to the Jamarat and throw stones that you pick up along the way. Then, you go to the slaughterhouse and sacrifice animals and get their blood all over you. It’s actually not required for people to go slaughter their own animals now, you can have it arranged to be done on your behalf and you get a phone call when it’s complete, but traditionally, people would do it on their own.

Then, you cut your hair or shave your head, so you get hair all over your ihram. By the time you’re done, you’re bound to be filthy and disgusting. Thankfully, you’re supposed to take a shower and change, what a relief that brings. Maybe that’s part of the metaphor? You obey His demands for this pilgrimage, bear the toil on your body and clothing, and ultimately shed it all as a renewal and ‘rebirth’. Maybe when we remove the dirty ihram, Allah removes with it the impurities in our hearts. Maybe when we shower and cleanse our exterior, Allah polishes our hearts and purifies our interior. I wanted to be in such a state when I return to Mecca to make tawaf. I preferred to be in a pure state when visiting The Sacred House, ready to receive from the Lord of All, directly to the heart. That is the bounty I desire, and it is a state better befitting His Majesty. I do not regret today’s hardships. Ya Rabb, You alone are sufficient for me.

One of my dad’s friends, Tahir, has been puttin out some truly thoughtful insights this entire time. While I’m in the corner writing, they’re on the other side of the tent, in the midst of this deep conversation about raising kids as good Muslims and decent human beings in America. Seems to be a recurring concern/issue for the uncles in our group.

It started when my dad was complaining about how whack Saudi is compared to America, exclaiming, “America is the greatest country in the world!” He sincerely meant it. I agree with him. There’s just nothing that compares to the infrastructure, cleanliness and overall order in society. We honestly take for granted how civilized our environment is. In other parts of the world, even basic rules don’t apply. Traffic patterns, litter, pollution, personal space/boundaries, civility – it’s like nothing is as it’s “supposed” to be. Basic example, NO one stands in line. Ever. If you wait in line, you’re telling everyone around you that you do not want whatever the hell you’re standing in line for, and they can jump in front of you and shove you out of the way. That must be what it means, because that’s exactly what happens when I try waiting in line. I ain’t no fool though, I learned lines are for suckers. Even at restaurants! You order food, you have a number, you’re not going to be served until it’s your turn. Doesn’t matter, push, shove, fight to the counter, every time the attendant turns towards you, throw your receipt up into his face. That’s the only way you get what you want, it’s ridiculous. Adapt or starve.

They started talking about raising kids. I guess that’s one area in which they find America to be a problematic environment. Tahir said, parents, especially Desi’s, keep their eyes closed to their kids’ lives. He said, “Good parenting isn’t just making sure your kids pray when they’re at home, but raising them so when they’re out all day, they do what’s right.” I think he hit it right on the head. Too many Desi parents try to force religiosity on their kids, and not actual morality. Many times, it seems they lack the morals themselves to even be able to impart them upon their offspring. He made a dope comment about how Allah didn’t send this many prophets for no reason. Heavy. We are indeed a rebellious creation, wanting to transgress for personal convenience and gain.

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It’s funny, I’ve been encouraged by so many of my group members to publish a book of my journey. The old Iranian man I sat next to on the bus has been really supportive & sweet. I had a feeling that would happen when I was writing about him at the time. His name’s Zakaria. His cousin, Nabi, also in our group, is a really nice guy too mA. He wanted to take a picture with me yesterday, it was also the first time we spoke. I was like, um…ok. He said he had a brother-in-law that looked like me. Compliment for him, right? ;)

In general, my group has grown on me. Even some of the Desi uncles I was hating on are turning out to be real solid dudes mA. There’s Fiyyaz, who’s a G, from Hydro-bad, and his buddy Saleem, who’s also such a great man. Then, there’s the other Saleem, who’s been super considerate, taking care of me like family. He’s always asking if I need anything and offering to share in his meals whenever he sees me. Our group leader, though he’s good at getting things that he wants, usually serves himself, making him a d-bag. Sorry, not traveling with you again. The Somali crew are also good folk, great fun, but here for the right reasons. Alhamdulillah, they have a good time and manage to get focused when the time is right.

We got skipped when meals were being handed out at lunch and dinner. Either because everyone and their mom hates our trip leader, or cuz the workers keep asking for tips and we just dont care anymore. Seriously, do yall not get paid? Or you just hustlin right now cuz your in the American tents? Whatevs, I already ate – had my leftover Turkish joint. Time for bed, I’m beat…I don’t care if it’s only 8:30pm and it’s Eid [Eid Mubarak!].

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Day 16 – Seeing Clearly

“All you hear is trash being kicked and crushed as people move along in the streets.”

11/6/11 Hajj, Day 3

My feet are gone. I can’t find them. They’ve been replaced by swollen, blistered globs of flesh. Today’s been rough, and it’s only 4:30pm. This morning, we got back to our camp from Muzdalifah, took 2 breaths – shallow ones, not deep ones – then we went to the Jamarat to do our Rami’ (stoning). There were millions of people there, for sure, all in the same place, subhanAllah. It was a terribly long walk from our camp though, like 2 miles, it took about an hour to get there. Seeing the Jamarat was interesting. While you’re throwing stones, on some level, you feel like you’re actually attacking Shaitan, even though they’re just giant stone walls. Feels good.

One of Three Jamarat Walls

Afterwards, our group was like ok, let’s go to the Haram and do our tawaf! I was like, um…what, how about no. I was already tired and filthy, I definitely didn’t want to go to the Haram in this condition. Going to the Haram would’ve meant getting pushed, shoved, stepped on, coughed on, and worn down even more. Not to mention the extensive walking it would’ve taken to get there, to do the tawaf (circling the Ka’aba) and the sai’y (going between Safa & Marwa), and to make the way back to the camp. We easily wouldn’t be back to Mina until like 11pm, given everything goes smoothly, which of course it never does on Hajj.

Based on that, I was seriously resisting going with the group to the Haram at that time, but my parents insisted, just to get the rituals done and over with. In reality, you do have to perform tawaf and sai’y as part of your Hajj, but it can be done in any of the last 3 days of Hajj. We still had 2 whole days to make it happen, there really was no need to rush. I wanted to go back and clean up first, then go to the Haram maybe later today or tomorrow. I ended up getting caught up with the group and continued walking with them towards Mecca. Everyone was so tired, walking in the sun and the heat, wanting to rest so badly. Our group leader kept pushing on, out of his own hastiness, but no one wanted to say anything or protest and just kept slaving on. I got fed up and just sat down on the curb, like “Screw it, y’all keep walkin if you want, I’m resting.” Immediately, everyone around me also stopped, my parents too. People were hesitant to just rest, saying we should inform the rest of the group, which had walked so far ahead, that we were stopping. I was like whatever, go ahead, I’m not budging though. It didn’t take more than a few minutes for everyone to stop and rest too. We desperately needed it.

It was close to Dhuhr time, so after a few minutes of rest, we walked towards an adjacent neighborhood to pray and get some food. We found a pretty awesome Turkish spot just up the street and prayed Dhuhr afterwards at the masjid across from  it. I swear that place stressed me out. There were so many people packed together, in some ways it was worse than the Haram, and it was just some random street mosque. The bathrooms were just gross and muddy – puddles and thrown ihrams all over. People would literally just discard their sheets anywhere and everywhere, after being able to change out of them, even just dropping them into the water drains in the public wudhu areas. I had to navigate a massive crowd the entire time, just to make wudhu, walk to the musallah and pray. I honestly haven’t had that much difficulty doing those simple things at any other place here thus far.

When we got out, everyone started looking for a bus to Mecca. I was like “Nah, I really don’t wanna go.” My parents freakedd out, especially my dad, who was getting upset and paranoid that I’d get lost. I tried reassuring him I would be alright and that they should still go if they wanted to finish their tawaf today. Deep inside my core, I earnestly felt that the last thing I wanted to do at the time was to travel to the Haram. I decided I was going to head back to Mina and split off from my parents and the rest of my group. I was that adamant. Luckily, my parents jumped ship too, to stay together. It was great in theory, but then we had to actually make the walk back, having already gone another 2 miles in the opposite direction, along with the group. That trip was difficult for me, I know my parents must’ve been feelin it. The worst part is, there was absolutely nothing I could do to make it easier for them, apart from insisting on taking breaks periodically. We all had to endure the hardship together, but still each on his/her own. It took us probably like 3-4 hours to walk back from where we prayed Dhuhr, all the way to our tents in Mina.

We saw the realness. Straight up realness, subhanAllah. We walked back through the camps for other parts of the world, specifically Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, and West Africa. It’s interesting though, this place has legit 3rd world filth, straight up. I’m so grimy myself right now, it barely even phases me anymore. I’m so desensitized now that something really has to be extreme to get to me at this point, even then it’s not for sure that it’ll illicit a reaction. For example, walking back through Mina, we’d pass by sewage drains that smelled like death and I’d gag, but that was about it. Towards the end of our walk back, I saw a dead body, just lying in the street. I didn’t even blink. Yeah, we saw a dead body, a man laid down, covered in his own ihram towel, subhanAllah. It was right outside one of the information offices for the camp. An ambulance came and picked up the body and drove off, barely anyone even noticed. I’m not even really sure anyone was with him, he may very well have been all alone. My dad actually walked right past the body, coming out of the info office, without even seeing him. This was right after I was telling my mom how Mina is exactly like what a refugee camp must be like – with the transitional housing and all the people packed in, it’s insane.

It was so sad though, going through the other countries’ camps. People don’t live in a way that’s clean or healthy…or safe. And they’re completely comfortable. They carry their customs and habits with them even to the Holy Land. The streets look like a landfill exploded, not just in the camps, but in the areas around the Jamarat as well. All you see when you walk in the streets is empty water bottles, crushed juice boxes, broken paper cups, and discarded flip-flops, littered across the pavement. If you’re lucky, you can actually see the color of the street beneath, when people kick trash out of the way as they trudge along. Outside of the Jamarat, people are just marching along, in droves, huge numbers. All you hear is trash being kicked and crushed as people move along in the streets.

Men were also able to shave their heads now, but to save money on going to barbers, many would shave their own heads, in the streets. Now, not only did you have garbage, you had thick carpets of cut hair strewn across the streets and sidewalks. I’m not exaggerating, it was disgusting. I was sincerely ashamed and disgraced to be a part of this community when I experienced these things. I know I’m not the only one, based on conversations with others around us. Unfortunately, this is a reality, maybe not one we accept, but for many, it’s what they’re used to. I have major problems with that.

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Day 16 – A Night In Muzdalifah

“With Allah’s Help, I think I’ve been protected. That’s what I’m telling myself to keep the paranoia away.”

11/6/11Hajj, Day 3

It’s Eid! Hajji’s don’t really do nothin with it though. We have more rituals to complete today, it’s not over yet.

We spent the night, last night, in Muzdalifah. It was out in the open, on a paved lot, under the street lights. It basically felt like being around millions, trying to sleep on a dusty Wal-Mart parking lot, with buses zooming past all night. I was out cold with some earplugs, a breathing mask and an eye shade. People around me were loud though, seemed like they talked all night. I kept waking up, didn’t sleep well at all. I also had a really freaky dream – I think some jinn was trying to mess with me, honestly.

I dreamt that I felt someone touch my lips, as I was laying in my place, asleep. They put their fingertips on my lips and then pulled out a few strands of hair from the front of my head, then I heard them walk away. So, still in my dream, thinking I’m awake now, I immediately thought there was some witchcraft goin on, so I touched my hair to feel if there were any knots. I found some of my hair tied in a knot on the back side of my head, on the left side. I untied the knot and looked around to see if I could find who had done it. Still dreaming, I talk to my mom, who was laying near me. I asked her if she saw anyone come near me while I was sleeping and she acted really weird. She responded, “Well, what about your wife?” I was like, “What?? What about my wife?!?!” and I got really, really pissed, and she backed off.

I woke up freaked out, not knowing how real it was. In my dream, I started reciting Ayatul Kursi and Surah Al-Falaq for protection, Alhamdulillah. Once awake, I started looking around, scouring the area around me for anything suspicious. When I went to sleep, I was completely surrounded by only my group members. When I woke up, there were two complete strangers lying right next to me, to my left. I eyed them suspiciously for a while, looking for any unusual activity. Never really found anything wrong. I tried to figure out if anyone had been messing with me, so I asked my mom if everyone had slept at the same time. I was trying to see if anyone would have been awake to see if anything happened to me. Seemed like there were a few people awake the whole night, with nothing to report.

I think, if it was real, there was a jinn that tried messing with me, maybe trying to put a spell on me involving a spouse. I think my untying the knot and resisting when they talked to me as my mom to find out about a wife, in addition to reciting the verses, may have helped to ward off any danger. With Allah’s Help, I think I’ve been protected. That’s what I’m telling myself to keep the paranoia away.

We’ll go to do Rami’ soon, where we’ll be stoning the Jamarat, the structures representing Satan. We got on a bus, which we waited an hour for. It took us another hour to get to Mina on the bus, due to all of the traffic. Some of our group, including my mom, chose not to wait for the bus and just walk, and their trip took them an hour. My dad and I were like nah, we’ll wait. Took us 2 hours to get back to our tent.

I feel grimy. My ihram is dirty, I need a shower, my hair needs shaving, and I got a vicious Arafah tan. Soon, habibi, soon, we’ll be done. Sabr, Hajji, sabr.

By the way, the bus was packedd! Fights almost broke out amongst all of us trying to get on. I had to force my way through to get on with my dad, I barely made it. We definitely couldn’t get seats, so we stood the whole way back. I had some dudes armpit in my face the whole time. Nice. Felt like catchin a ride in Pakistan. The bus ride was long, hot, sweaty, sticky. Yum…

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Day 15 – Well, This Is Awkward…

“The first thoughts that came to mind were, “Crap! I’m in my ihram too…and it’s the Day of Arafah!”

11/5/11Hajj, Day 2

The tests have not stopped, they’ve only just started hitting much closer to home. I just got hit with a very personal test. It’s kinda funny really, though totally embarassing.

 So, I took a nap in our tent after sunrise, trying to kill time til Dhuhr, and get some rest. After Dhuhr is when I wanted to focus on making all of my du’as. It was a pretty good nap – restful, comfortable, peaceful. I started to dream. How do I say this…? The dream turned…saucy. That’s hilarious, I didn’t plan on using that word, but it works, I’m stickin with it.

The details of this saucy dream are a bit too personal even for this journal, though it wasn’t graphic or obscene. Ok, enough about that. I immediately woke myself up as soon as it was “happening”. The first thoughts that came to mind were, “Crap! I’m in my ihram too…and it’s the Day of Arafah!” The only day that really matters. So, I recoup, having also just woken up – rude awakening status. I went to the bathroom, trying not to walk awkwardly.

The plan I came up with on the spot was: get into a stall, make ghusl, switch my top ihram sheet to the bottom, wash the bottom sheet, and be out without anyone noticing what happened. Problem was, there were no showers in Arafah, those are only in Mina. Also, everything had to be done in this small toilet stall, where there’s also the infamous hole in the ground. Staying clean was a top priority.

Alhamdulillah, I got through it just fine, no worries. Allah makes it easy when you reach out to Him for help. I got lucky and had a clean stall, with no lines waiting to get in after me. There was also an unusually long water hose in the stall, normally they’re only half that length. There were no hooks though, so I took off my top sheet and slung it over the door, hung my money belt on the door knob, took off my bottom sheet and folded it up loosely. I didn’t have anywhere to set down my bottom sheet, so I took off my flip-flops and sat it on top. I used the super long hose to make ghusl, took my time and cleaned up. Worked out really well actually. I cleaned off the bottom sheet, draped it over my shoulders, wrapped my other sheet around my waist and walked out. Ten minutes tops. Now, I’m sitting in the sun to dry off. Not a single suspecting soul, Alhamdulillah.

Question: If I’m in ihram and there’s an ant crawling on me and I flick it to get it off and end up killing it, do I have to pay a penalty? That just happened…

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Day 12 – Lost & Found

“We can never run out of reasons to be thankful.”

11/2/11

10am. Finally got some sleep. The room we’re in had the A/C blasting, with the knob broken off, and we had to sleep in our ihram, so it was chilly. We’re about to catch a cab to go to the Haram and do ‘Umrah iA.

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SubhanAllah! The most amazing thing just happened. I went to the bathroom & was takin my time, you know. I took off my watch & left it on the ledge in the stall, while I was inside. I finish my business and get out, make wudu, stand in front of the fan for a while, dry off, hit the water fountain – just takin my sweet time, chillin, freshening up before I go to make ‘Umrah. This was in the bathroom of the Masjid Al-Haram by the way, which isn’t actually in the masjid, but in an underground area outside the masjid, beyond the courtyard (feels like a Subway station).

When I showed up to use the bathroom, there was basically no one around, just 2-3 other people waiting to use the stalls. There are just hallways, lined with dozens of stalls. The stall I used had a bag of clothes hanging on the wall, left there by someone who used it before. I moved it when I got inside, to hang my bag. Before leaving, I made sure to return the bag to the same place I had moved it from. When I left the stall, there was suddenly like 100 people waiting. There must have been 2 or 3 people waiting in front of each stall. I was like dang, ok. So, I go about my business, and get all ready to go. Then, as I’m about to climb the stairs to get back out, I go to check the time and realize…I left my watch in the bathroom! I was like, “Astaghhhfirullaahhhhh!” and I darted back to the stalls. While I was headed back, I was like subhanAllah, here’s another test – Allah finds ways to test each part of us, in ways we wouldn’t even imagine. I was also like, ok, let’s see how well Muslims revere the Haram – you’re not supposed to take anyyything you find here – you either leave it or you’re responsible for publicly announcing what you’ve picked up, to return it, before you can take anything.

I get back to the stalls, and there’s even more people than before, it’s packed tight in the hallway. Each stall was numbered, but I didn’t remember to look at which number I was in. I didn’t remember exactly which stall I used, but I had a general idea. So, I camped in front of like 7 stalls where I knew it’d be. Each time someone came out & the door opened, I hustled over and poked my head in to see if it was the right stall. I was thinking, man, what if it takes a while, is it worth it? I’ll be telling everyone how I lost my new watch in the masjid bathroom, is this really how it ends? And I was like, no! I need to try. Within a few minutes, the stalls I was watching were all opening up. One particular stall had a bag of clothes hanging on the wall!! I immediately went forward and saw my watch still sitting on the ledge!!! I excused myself past the man that was going in & grabbed it, and bounced out – a huge grin on my face. Allahu Akbar :) Alhamdulillah wa shukr.

This place has credibility mA. That was a huge relief & a great blessing. I’m so thankful to be able to keep this gift. May Allah shower abundantly with His Bounties & Blessings the one that gave it, the one that wears it, the one that looks upon it, and all those that benefit from that which it measures. Ameen :)

It’s funny, isn’t it? We think the possessions we have belong to us, but Allah can easily separate us from them. Even being able to keep what’s come to us is an immense blessing. We can never run out of reasons to be thankful.

Time for ‘Umrah ;) 1:20pm

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That.Was.Intense. I’m exhausted just from the tawaf. It was so hot & crowded, under the afternoon sun. I still managed to maneuver around, by letting myself go, not fighting the crowd. Going with the flow got me to my destination.

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Finally got some food & a little time to recharge after that grueling ‘Umrah. My parents & I met up around 4:30pm, after I finished. We had lunch at this pretty good Turkish “kebap” joint, just up the street from Marwa. Alhamdulillah, we showed up beat, tired and just outta shape. We found a table and just collapsed down, exhausted. There was another man next to us who was joined by his friend, who came holding three large trays, full of meals. He had brought at least 10 meals, which he and his friend were going to go to town on apparently. We looked at the two of them like…dang, they gon eat all that…? SubhanAllah, without hesitation, the man picked up 3 of the meals – plates of freshly grilled kebabs – and placed them in front of us, telling us to help ourselves & eat. What great hospitality, it was such a generous & pleasant gesture. May Allah show them even more hospitality on the Day where we will be at His total Whim, ameen.

The food was pretty good. I still went up and ordered some chicken for my mom, who typically won’t touch red meat. I also got a rack of cold drinks. We shared sodas with the men at our table and all enjoyed our meals together. Such a huge blessing Alhamdulillah. Another ease to accompany the hardship…starting to see a pattern, aren’t we?

Afterwards, my dad cut/sawed off some of the curls from the back of my head. Ihram complete :) I love being in ihram, but fulfilling the rites & being done with it is such a great feeling too, Alhamdulillah.

My mom & I grabbed some ice cream too – we were serious about recharging :). The ice cream, or “scream” as the store owners called it, was really good. It was just a bunch of different flavors in one cup, all soft-serve. Even the chocolate wasn’t bad, and I hate chocolate ice cream usually. This wasn’t bitter at all. We went on to pray Maghrib & now we’re sitting inside the mosque, waiting for ‘Isha.

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Day 11 – Familiar Faces

The worst thing about the trip was the frustration of being trapped, not being able to go anywhere, do anything…These are events which try your patience.”

11/1/11

The desert calm that clings to the soul. Forcefully grabs hold and enshrouds the heart. There can be no escape, only surrender. It is to this tranquility we retreat. There is no salvation from it, until the desert is left behind – mountains at your back, city streets under your feet. Only then, may you find peace from the Peace. A peace, by which, there is no solace, only yearning – for the perfectly blended skies and warm radiant rays of the brother you left behind.

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2 things: SubhanAllah, nothing compares to the beauty of a desert sunset. I was in total awe, I could have stared forever.

Second, 6:30pm, SubhanAllah, we stopped at a random rest stop on the way to Mecca to pray Maghrib & I saw Ali Hanif! SubhanAllah, that was incredible. Hanif is a good friend of mine from college, I met him and his wife, Nasrin & took pictures together. Allah is the Best of Planners. We may not get to meet again, but I’m grateful to have found a familiar face & extend a warm embrace with my beloved brother. He’s staying at the Al-Massa hotel, I remember seeing the sign, it’s somewhere around the city center. I’ll try to run into him again iA. I made du’a a few days ago to run into people I know, because I was ready to share these moments with my friends & I was finally granted the chance, Alhamdulillah. I was in the prayer area and I saw him standing there. I just rushed up to him and gave him a big, crushing bear hug :) Squeeze first, ask questions later.

I saw Mona Haydar yesterday. Though we don’t talk, I knew she was coming to Hajj from her CNN video, so it was cool to see her. She was in Medina, in the courtyard outside of the masjid, carrying a bunch of shopping bags :) May Allah accept all of our efforts & make our Hajj Mabrur iA.

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That was the perfect ease to accompany this hardship, my heart feels at complete peace. That was, until the slow-boy crew grabbed the mic and started the dyslexic talbiyah, short bus status. The speaker system in the bus needs to get regulated by someone with some courtesy. Can we not have the mic circulate between 4 people with equally horrendous voices that sound like their throats are closing up from peanut allergies? Seriously, man? That’s too much self-confidence, put the mic down, walk away. Take some Benadryl.

Cool thing about the drive from Mecca to Medina is that there are signs posted with different adhkar (reminders of God), periodically along the sides of the road. Reminders to remember The Most Near, Allahu Akbar!

7:20pm, dark, on the bus, not enough light…

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8pm, about an hour left iA. I’m remembering our drive to Medina & how awesome it was. Our driver was something special, subhanAllah, what a character :). That Pathan restaurant was so amazing!! My dad said it was the best food he’d had in years. Not to be taken lightly. I want to remember that whole adventure well iA.
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We got to Mecca at 11pm. It was 11:30 by the time we got out of the Pilgrims Processing Center. The bus ride got much worse before it got better. We hit insane traffic & were stuck for 3 hours. I was also getting talbiyah brainwashed, with it blaring repeatedly, directly over my fatigued head. At least I got to get out at the Pilgrims Center and use the bathroom and blow out some face phlegm (gross, I know – wait till you get here :P). I’m feeling a bit more refreshed, Alhamdulillah. That’s the awesome thing about this journey, I suppose – you get hit with stuff tailored to make you go insane..and want to punch old Persian men in the face…and other group members…sometimes even complete strangers…But, you learn your limitations, your weaknesses and your actual capabilities. Don’t worry, no one got punched. Not by me, at least.

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Allahu Akbar. We finally got to our rooms in Aziziah, just northwest of Mecca. It’s 3am. Our trip from Medina to Mecca really did just take 12 hours. That’s as long as my flight from DC to Jeddah. Normally, it’s only a 4 hour drive between Mecca & Medina. I’m so tired and hungry, but so relieved. The worst thing about the trip was the frustration of being trapped, not being able to go anywhere, do anything. We were caged in on the bus and had to just wait for things to take their course, on their own sweet schedule. These are events which try your patience. The drive to Mecca has been difficult both times now, while the trip to Medina was actually alot of fun & was really memorable. It was so dysfunctional and ridiculous that you couldn’t help but laugh. There was nothing amusing about the hardship this time.

I think things are getting more and more difficult as the time for Hajj nears. I wonder if it’ll be easier once we’re done? I’m *hoping* things will ease up once we’ve completed our Hajj. We’ll see iA.

Things take so long for no reason other than to test your patience.

My dad went down the street and picked up some pizza. It’s actually really legit, I’m totally killing this at 4am. No hesitation. So good…

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Thus far, I’ve seen two things which are amongst the most beautiful I’ve ever seen in my life – the Ka’aba & the desert sunset.

The Ka’aba is a masterpiece. It carries such magnitude & grace that it’s just awe-inspiring. It is significant for so many reasons – it stands as a historical landmark, a spiritual symbol, and a social phenomena, amongst other things. It is the anchor for so many worlds. Gazing upon it will make the heart swell & put one into a trance-like state. The hypnotizing, ceaseless circumambulation of pilgrims penetrates the soul with its beauty. Everyone orbits the Ka’aba in fluid motion, while that structure stands as an absolute pillar, from which we all draw stability. Not only whilst making tawaf, in the Haram, but all around the globe, it is our direction of prayer. It is a metaphor for our Universe in so many ways. We orbit, as celestial bodies in space do, mimicking them in movement & in appearance – joining ourselves to the order of the galaxies. It is also reminiscent of the nature of our very own existence. We derive stability from the only Absolute in the Universe, while fluidly in motion, according to His Whim. This is the epitome of “going with the flow”. Being a part of that phenomena, participating in this analogy, is what makes this place even more fantastic. If only we could carry the lessons with us, throughout the other aspects of our lives.

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Day 11 – Rollercoaster to Mecca

I’m in ihram and trying, tryingTRYING not to flip out on this bus and start getting reckless. 

Book 2

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

11/1/11

This is awesome, I filled up the whole first book & we haven’t even started the actual Hajj rituals yet. There’s still 3 or 4 more days to go before it really starts.

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There was a big throwdown at breakfast between our group leaders & all the uncles. They’ve been complaining for days behind his back, but to his face they would barely speak a word. Whatever the case, I would highly recommend going along with a group, where you buy the full package & everything is pre-arranged and planned out in advance at each step. Apparently, there are groups some of the guys learned about where people have full packages, where they get everything, and at good quality, for $3,800. Much better than us, who paid around the same amount & did stuff individually & have so much entropy to deal with. We essentially bought our own ticket and latched onto a smaller group for our housing and transportation arrangements. There’s some guy they found here from Abu Dhabi who paid $10,000 for his package & got put in the same hotel as us. What a screw. He didn’t complain though, not as far as I could tell – just got used as fuel for our group members’ complaints about how messed up the system is. May Allah accept his Hajj, ours too.

Bus is here, 11:40am, heading back to Mecca, iA.

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It’s past 1pm, still in Medina, waiting to load the whole group in & head out soon iA.

So, I’m not sure exactly, but I think gas is stupid cheap here. Like, the bus driver we had that took us to Medina, filled up his bus with diesel fuel for 10 riyals. That’s like $3-4. Maybe he just didn’t fill up? Either way, it’s retardedly cheap. It’s no wonder they love these big, gas-guzzling American SUV’s here. There’s so many Saudi’s pushing Toyota 2400 pickup trucks like they’re Civics & Corollas in America. Suburbans, Yukons, Land Rovers, all that.

Problem we’re having now is that we are jam-packed in this bus. We actually have so much luggage that the cargo compartments are all full, so the whole back row of seats has excess luggage on it. That leaves 4 ladies with no seats. Our group arranged for a 52-seat bus for 54 people, then 4 seats have suitcases stacked to the ceiling. Dang. We’ll see how this works out.

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2pm, we finally started to leave Medina. We’re headed to the Meeqat (entry way to Mecca) to put on our ihram, so we can perform ‘Umrah upon entering the city of Mecca. I’m thinking of doing it for someone else – maybe my brother if I can do it for someone living. Otherwise, my grandmother maybe, on my mom’s side. I never really knew her while she was alive, but she seemed like such a sweet woman. I am at a loss for not having the opportunity to have known her better & think I would like to do this for her.

Before we left, there was a little scuffle. Someone shoved our group leader, one of the Hajj officials I think, to keep him off the bus. This fired up alot of the men on the bus, who immediately shot up out of their seats and almost bolted out of the door. Our group leader tried to stop the bus from leaving too, which went on without him & the 4 women he tried to get on. They were refused by the official because apparently they weren’t on the final list he had. Our group leader said he paid extra to have them added later. No dice. All this messy stuffs, I’m just chillin though, dikrin’ it up iA.

We just got to the Meeqat Dhul Hulaifah. It’s a nice masjid. It’s about 2:20pm. Will return in ihram, iA.

Meeqat Dhul Hulaifah

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We’re on the bus, driving for the past hour. I’m in ihram and trying, trying, TRYING not to flip out on this bus and start getting reckless. The old Persian man next to me, for SOME reason, chooses to hold all of his ginormous shopping bags in his lap. I asked him if he was planning on setting the bags down in the aisle. “Yes, soon.” Continues cradling his bags. I’m all crammed in the corner here, against the window, with no space. On top of that, the driver’s been blasting this all-Arabic, angry-man khutbah over the speaker system for God knows how long. I woke up and the speaker, directly above my head, was blaring & I got so pissed. Alhamdulillah, other people said something & he turned it down. Soon as I started writing, we randomly started hitting bumpy patches of road. NO, it’s ok, I’m gonna stay cool, no worries iA. Let’s see what else gets thrown at me.

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